Patrick: Treat mentally ill less like prisoners

Gov. plans $12.3 million overhaul of system

Bridgewater State Hospital at the Massachusetts Department of Correction in Bridgewater, Mass. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has unveiled a plan to reform the way the state’s criminal justice system handles mentally ill people, including a dramatic increase in staff at Bridgewater State Hospital.

The plan released Tuesday also calls for a new facility where potentially violent patients could receive care.

The plan, expected to cost $12.3 million in the short term, calls for Massachusetts to move away from treating mentally ill people as prisoners and more like patients, including better training for staff.

Bridgewater, a prison run by the state Department of Correction, has come under fire for restraining patients too much and has been the subject of several lawsuits.

Roderick MacLeish Jr., an attorney representing patients in a lawsuit, tells The Boston Globe that Patrick’s proposals are “a very promising step forward.”

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